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Her Mad Existence: The Ultimate Collection Of Evita Perón Iconography

Seventy years after her death, displays in Buenos Aires, including a vast collection of pictures shown online, recall the life and times of "Evita" Perón, the Argentine first lady turned icon of popular culture.

Posters of Eva Perón

A bookstore in San Telmo, a neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, displays pictures of Eva Perón.

Maxi Kronenberg

BUENOS AIRES — Her death in 1952 at the age of 33 helped turn the Argentine first lady Eva Perón — known to millions as Evita — into one of the iconic faces of the 20th century, alongside other Argentines like the singer Carlos Gardel, the guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and soccer stars Maradona and Messi.

Evita, née María Eva Duarte, became for many the defender of the poor — and to her detractors, the mother of Latin America's brazen populists — as she pushed for civil rights, gender equality and social programs for the poor in her time as first lady of Argentina in the mid-20th century.

To mark the 70th anniversary of her death (which fell on July 26), Juan Cantafio, possibly the biggest collector of magazine covers in Latin America, paid her tribute by organizing an online display of part of his vast collection of Evita pictures and press material, gathered over a 50-year period.

Eva Per\u00f3n and husband Juan Per\u00f3n.

The iconic image of a weeping Eva Perón embracing her husband Juan Perón after a rally on Oct. 17, 1951.

Public Domain

The many phases of a brief life

Cantafio, an arts director and design specialist, has come to possess more than 500,000 magazine covers from all periods. He curated the popular FACES exhibition that displayed parts of his collection in the San Martín arts center in Buenos Aires earlier this year.

At home Cantafio has more than 10,000 objects relating to Evita, ranging from some 8,000 magazine covers from various periods to press cuttings, dolls, postcards, statuettes, books in several languages, engravings, records, CDs, tapes, films, original and digital photographs, and film and television posters featuring the many actresses that have played Evita.

'Immortal' is the appropriate word.

This unique compilation spans the various phases of Perón's life: from her beginnings in 1942 as a radio actress in Buenos Aires, to her later phase as a local film star, her social activities as wife of the president, General Juan Domingo Perón, the shattering impact of her death in 1952 and subsequent transformation into an Argentine legend.

The Cantafio Collection has enough material to fill an exhibition at a national museum. Parts of it can be seen on a commemorative website, Evita Inmortal Argentina.

Cantafio insists the collection should not be taken as a sign of his support for Peronism, the social-democratic current led by Evita and her husband, which has since had a preponderant influence on Argentine politics. The idea of an exhibition, he says, came as he was classifying his memorabilia before the pandemic and found he had "an impressive volume" of items on Evita.

Rally in remembrance of Eva Per\u00f3n.

Scores of people attended a rally on the 70th anniversary of the death of Eva Perón on July 26, 2022.

Nicolas Villalobos/dpa/ZUMA

An immortal icon

He says 'immortal' is the appropriate word to use for Evita, as she is not only well-known but remain of interest, even today, 70 years after her death. Images of Evita are still "being reproduced, re-elaborated and redesigned," he says.

More than 100 women have played Evita's role, notably U.S. singers Madonna in the film based on the musical by English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Donna Summer, who played her part in the musical in San Francisco.

Cantafio has pictures of the first actress to depict Evita, the Frenchwoman Andrée Debar (1920-1999). In 1953, she visited Argentina with her husband, the film producer Roger Duchot, to obtain the rights to the role. They were not given the rights but produced the first dramatized film on Evita, and a play in Paris the next year.

He says Debar "had great admiration and curiosity" for the contrasting aspects of Perón's life: her accelerated and conflictive life and delicate health, her Dior dresses, and the historical moments she lived, including meetings with the Pope or with Spain's General Franco in 1947.

The magazine covers are a record of her experiences. One shows her in shorts and a Boca shirt, kicking off a soccer match in the 1940s. Others show her as Evita Montonera, dressed as a leftist Montonero militant. The collection includes 1,000 digitized versions of pictures by Alfredo Mazzorotolo, an official photographer to the presidential couple.

Numerous commemorative events to mark the 70th anniversary of her death included an exhibition of paintings by Daniel Santoro at the Kirchner arts center, music and readings at the National Auditorium and a display of Evita's collection of Spanish folk dresses at the Museo Larreta.

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Milei Elected: Argentina Bets It All On "Anything Is Better Than This"

The radical libertarian Javier Milei confounded the polls to decisively win the second round of Argentina's presidential elections; now he must win over a nation that has voiced its disgust with the country's brand of politics as usual.

Photo of Javier Milei standing in front of his supporters

Javier Milei at a campaign rally

Eduardo van der Kooy


BUENOS AIRES — Two very clear messages were delivered by Argentine society with its second-round election of the libertarian politician Javier Milei as its next president.

The first was to say it was putting a definitive end to the Kirchner era, which began in 2003 with the presidency of the late Néstor Kirchner and lasted, in different forms, until last night.

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The second was to choose the possibility, if nothing else, of a future that allows Argentina to emerge from its longstanding state of prostration. It's a complicated bet, because the election of the candidate of Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances) is so radical and may entail changes to the political system so big as to defy predictions right now.

This latter is the bigger of the two key consequences of the election, but the voters turning their back on the government of Cristina and Alberto Fernández and its putative successor, (the Economy minister) Sergio Massa, also carries historical significance. They could not have said a clearer No to that entrenched political clan. So much so that they decided to trust instead a man who emerged in 2021 as a member of parliament, with a weak party structure behind him and a territorial base no bigger than three mayors in the Argentine hinterland.

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